Rationality: A Simple Definition

The more rational know
they are not always rational.
The more irrational think
they are always rational.

— Shilashanti

Clearly the words “rational” and “irrational” can be quite loaded. People are always labeling those who disagree with them “irrational.” What we need is a simple definition that can be applied as a way of judging, as accurately as possible, the difference between the two. The following shall serve as our barometer.

We constantly feel emotions, and they continually infect our thinking, making us veer towards thoughts that please us and soothe our egos. It is impossible to not have our inclinations and feelings somehow involved in what we think. Rational people are aware of this and through introspection and effort are able, to some extent, to subtract emotions from their thinking and counteract their effect.

Irrational people have no such awareness. They rush into action without carefully considering the ramifications and consequences. In all cases, the degree of awareness represents the difference. Rational people can readily admit their own irrational tendencies and the need to be vigilant. On the other hand, irrational people become highly emotional when challenged about the emotional roots of their decisions. They are incapable of introspection and learning. Their mistakes make them increasingly defensive… How would you rate yourself on this scale?

The Daily Laws
Robert Greene

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